Turning the tide? Patterns of divergence and convergence in values espoused by new CEOs of large UK companies

Humphrey Bourne, Sijia Wen

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paperpeer-review


We present a study of values espoused by Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) in the annual reports of top 121 UK companies over a ten-year period and consider changes following the appointment of a new CEO. This long-term study suggests there is within industry groups a tendency for CEO espoused values to converge over time, which may be explained by isomorphism in response to the norms expected by stakeholders in the institutional field. Within this general trend, however, the change to value terms espoused by new CEOs following succession indicates a degree of divergence from the overall pattern. In the years following, in over half the cases, espoused values tend to revert to the pattern of convergence within the industry group. The findings suggest that in these cases, institutional and organisational forces appear to overcome values changes introduced by new leaders.
The pattern of espoused values shown in this research adds to the general debate regarding the interaction of culture and the enactment of leadership. It brings to attention those forces of inertia and resistance that leaders experience in attempting to impose their own values on the organisations they lead, and emphasises the challenge facing leaders who wish to initiate values change.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventBritish Academy of Management: Leadership and Values Symposium - University of Lancaster, Lancaster, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Oct 201529 Oct 2015


ConferenceBritish Academy of Management
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Espoused values
  • Chief Executive Officers
  • Succession
  • Change
  • Isomorphism
  • Strategic Choice


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